We’re John and Pat, of proper age to be AARP bait, and we are federal employees who live in our stick n’ brick home in suburban Maryland. We have two children in various stages of independence and we are planning to retire in the summer of 2017. We’ve chosen to sell our home when we retire, buy a motorhome and tour the country as full-time RVers to give us a chance to work on our “bucket lists” of things to see and do before we get so old that infirmity prohibits these things.
Fulltime RV’ing was a decision we arrived at in a roundabout way. We always knew that we would be leaving Maryland when we retired since Maryland tax laws do not favor pensioners, and we have enough equity in our house to buy a nice cottage on a lake somewhere. Then one night we sat at the dinner table discussing what we wanted out of retirement, and the topic of fulltime RV’ing came up. Pat got a real serious look on her face and said, “I’d love to do that and have thought about it a lot.” This was a shocker, since Pat, the consummate gardener and stay-at-home person, had just busted one of my key beliefs about her – namely that she was not that adventurous. But the more we looked at the idea, it was apparent that it would work for us. We could take the equity from our home sale and apply it to a motorhome. We decided to shoot for a date sometime in summer 2017 for our escape – for retirement, selling the house, and buying the RV.
So now the nuts and bolts of the decision started to kick in. Neither of us had any experience with motorhomes, although we did have a pop-up trailer in the 90’s that gave us a lot of pleasure. So we had a steep learning curve. 5th wheel, Class C or Class A? Pat doesn’t like driving big pickup trucks, so 5th-wheel trailers and tagalong travel trailers quickly got ruled out. I initially favored Class C coaches (built on a Ford truck chassis with a V10 gas engine in front) but later felt they did not have enough liveability for fulltiming and might not be able to handle a towed vehicle (“toad” in RV-speak), so a diesel-powered class A became the more-or-less obvious choice. A diesel pusher (DP) has a turbocharged Cummins 340-hp engine in back and an Allison automatic transmission, and this enables a lot of advantages – mileage, the ability to power up mountains while towing a toad, quiet (engine in the rear, people in the front) to name a few- but it comes with the downside of an increased sticker price and higher maintenance costs.
We decided that, at first, we would be staying in RV resorts and campgrounds with full (water, electric and sewer) hookups, and then we would step outside that envelope and begin occasional boondocking on public lands. I bought Allstay’s Camp and RV app for my Android phone and tablet to give us an idea of what campgrounds there were out there that we could afford, and I was pleasantly surprised with the plethora of affordable options – I guess that with more than a million baby boomers fulltiming it, it’s a high point for the RV industry and a good time to open a campground. I also started canvassing http://www.rvtrader.com for likely DP floorplans in our target price range, and we attended “America’s Largest RV Show” in Hershey, PA so that we could kick the tires of a lot of prospective choices and attend seminars that answered most of the burning questions.
Strategies for living the fulltime RV life started popping into our heads. About 6 months before we sell the house we will sign up for a mail forwarding service in South Dakota (our current choice is America’s Mailbox, close to Rapid City) and will make that our official address for snail mail. After we sell the house we’ll be driving out there to get our SD drivers’ licenses, which will enable us to buy an RV with 3% South Dakota sales tax (now 4% in 2015) rather than Maryland’s 6% tax. South Dakota is one of three U.S. states favored by fulltimers for domicile (Florida and Texas are the others) due to its lack of state income tax and easy qualifications for residence (stay 1 night in a hotel and you’re in). Several folks advised us that lenders are leery of giving a loan to people who don’t own a house, but my feeling is that we’ll make enough in equity to not have to rely on a loan, and we’ll be able to go into retirement relatively debt-free, even if we get surprised in the sale price of the house and have to downsize our expectations of the price and features of the coach. We’re going to do our shortlisting on one of the online RV trading sites and then we’re willing to drive 1000 miles or so when we decide on “the one.” We can register it by mail in South Dakota from wherever the dealer is who sells it to us, and I more or less began calling it “The Bessie”, hence the name of this blog.
So with that plan in mind, we’re spending the next few years getting rid of the contents of our house. After 30 years of collecting things, that’s going to be a big chore.